After 28 years of providing a caring service, the on-call Palliative Care in-home service has been cancelled by Southern Area Health.
This means those caring for people who are dying in their own homes now do not have a dedicated number to call in times of need.
Instead they have to call an impersonal 1800 number.
A Health Infrastructure spokesperson provides a response to these claims below.
A source confirmed the service had been cancelled since just before Christmas.
“They have stopped this service. The direct out of hours service is no longer accessible,” the source said.
“It used to be an out of hours number, so if something went wrong with the person you were caring for at home, you had a number you could call, which was one of the palliative care workers in Goulburn.”
The source said night time was often the time when carers needed the most support.
“The active hours for many people are not business hours, so the on-call loss makes it hard for families who no longer have access to it,” they said.
“Sometimes palliative patients get restless or exhibit a range of symptoms during the night that carers may not know what to do about.
“They used to be able to ring and get advice, even if just to reassure them that everything is OK.”
Goulburn resident Fran Croft has been an oncology patient at the Bourke Street Health Service since 2013.
She said she was “very upset” at finding out the on-call service had been cut.
“This is nothing short of disgusting,” Mrs Croft said.
“Now you have to phone an 1800 number and the ‘Hospital In The Home’ service will only cover visits between 8am and 5pm, weekends.
“It is saying that palliative patients in their own home are a cost burden and not worthy of the extra care.
“Cost cutting with no feeling for those who are dying is despicable.”
Mrs Croft said palliative care patients at home needed compassion, not cost cutting.
“If a patient is in their own home, they are entitled to have the care and reassurance of the dedicated and trained staff, who not only give them comfort they require, but also offer vital family support,” she said.
“To the chairman of the Board, I ask you to explain why the citizens of Goulburn are not important enough to have in-home visits?
“Don’t try the cost cutting exercise. Try being compassionate.”
Another source said the Palliative Care Team was doing more with less.
“There is less staff in palliative care team and they have also increased the region that staff have to cover,” the source said.
“Families do not have the support they once had.
“They (Southern Area Health) will say they have no staff to support it, but this is untrue.”
Meanwhile, Goulburn Labor candidate Ursula Stephens was disappointed with the decision.
“It is a hugely disappointing decision and one that should be reconsidered by the Southern Area Health Service,” Dr Stephens said.
“The notion that you have to phone an 1800 number is so impersonal and does not reflect the stresses that people may be under in these circumstances.
“End of life care should be available.
“Also, the idea that hospital in the home service will only cover visits between 8am and 5pm on weekends is something the health service should reconsider.
“The Premier has been in Goulburn in the last week announcing $30 million and certainly some of that money could go to re-establishing this service and re-employing more staff in the area.”
Response from Health Infrastructre
Meanwhile, a Health Infrastructure spokesperson responded to a series of questions from the Goulburn Post.
Here is their response in total.
“The Palliative Care after Hours Helpline has been running for some time in NSW and has been utilised across the Southern NSW Local Health District,” the spokesperson said.
“The Goulburn region will now also use this service, bringing the region in line with the rest of the Health District. The helpline allows the Health District to better utilise professionals and services to assist carers and palliative care clients at home as well as in Health District facilities. The quality of care and service remains the same.
“The service is provided by NSW Health with professional palliative care nurses available after hours to answer and assist clients and families. For clients who are registered with a specific palliative care service, a report is distributed to the clients’ local team the following day. This provides local staff with an update and they are then able to connect with the client and/or family on the same day.
“Hospital in the Home staff are registered nurses available for palliative care face to face visits on weekends. They work closely with the palliative care nursing team and specialists. All facilities in the Goulburn region have access to the Palliative Care Specialist Physician at Westmead Hospital, Sydney 24 hours a day via phone consultations and for reviews.
“Carers are a pivotal factor for clients dying at home and we support fully those who wish to die at home as well as their carers. The services of the Hospital in the Home team on the weekend and the After Hours Helpline ensures carers are continued to be supported.
“During the week palliative care nursing staff receive handover from the Hospital in the Home team and monitor feedback from the Helpline to continue to support those who are registered to the service.
“The Government’s record spend on palliative care is approximately $210 million each year, covering services in the NSW Health system. In 2017-18, the Government announced a further $100 million over four years for palliative care.
“Funding of $30 million was recently announced by the NSW Government for Goulburn Hospital. This is in addition to the $120 million for the Goulburn Hospital and Health Service Redevelopment.
“Investment across the Health District also includes $150 million announced for a new health facility in the Eurobodalla, $8 million set aside for the Yass District Hospital redevelopment, $18.6 million being spent refurbishing Cooma District Hospital, $2.6 million in funding for the Pambula Hospital refurbishment, while funding for the Braidwood MultiPurpose Service (MPS) redevelopment is coming from the $300-million State-wide program of works to upgrade MPS facilities in a number of rural and remote communities across NSW.”